The City of Branson Utilities Department will hold a public hearing and discussion on increasing water and sewer rates at the next regularly scheduled Board of Aldermen meeting, Tuesday, October 22, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.
Keeping water and sewer rates as low as possible for Branson residents and businesses is a top priority for the City of Branson. Currently, Branson has the third-lowest water and sewer costs in the entire State of Missouri compared to the 60 cities in the State with equal or larger populations.
The City of Branson is able to have one of the lowest rates in the State due, in part, to the ability to use the City’s tourism tax for major water and sewer infrastructure improvements. Since 2010, the City has used over $44 million from the tourism tax to fund critical water and sewer infrastructure improvements. Within the next 10 years, it is anticipated the City will need to be prepared to fund approximately $74 million in additional water and sewer infrastructure expansions to keep pace with development and upgrades to aging infrastructure. These improvements will need to be funded through the continued collection of tourism tax funds.
While the tourism tax is vital to major infrastructure improvements and keeping costs down, there isn’t enough money in the tourism tax to cover all infrastructure costs, expansion improvements, debt service on existing improvements as well as the operations and maintenance of the Utilities. That’s why for the 2020 fiscal year Utilities recommends a 2% water rate increase to keep pace with inflationary costs. A 5% sewer rate increase is recommended, with a breakdown of 2% for inflationary costs and the remaining 3% to bring sewer revenues closer to costs for maintenance and repair programs mainly in the sewer collection system to further reduce infiltration of groundwater and root intrusion, both of which add to operational costs and the risk for sewer spills.
Even with these proposed rate increases, Branson’s water and sewer rates will remain among the very lowest in the state of Missouri for residential customers. The 2% water rate increase would result in a cost of 35 cents per month for a residential customer using 5000 gallons of water. The 5% sewer increase would result in an additional cost of 70 cents per month. A combined water and sewer bill for a residential customer using 5000 gallons of water in Branson would be $32.52 in 2020. As a comparison, using current published water and sewer rates, a residential customer in Springfield would pay $72.82 for the same water and sewer service. In Joplin, the cost would be $82.14.
Residents and community members are encouraged to attend to Tuesday’s meeting for a more in-depth look at the proposed increase and to ask any questions. The Branson Board of Aldermen have to approve any rate increases. They will vote on the first read of this code amendment at Tuesday’s meeting. If they vote in favor, it will be read again and have to be voted on again for its second read at the next Board of Aldermen meeting. You can find more information on the City of Branson Utilities Department and current water and sewer rates on the City’s website at http://www.bransonmo.gov/226/Utilities.